As the State Turns…

stateturnssymbolWave Energy Waves Goodbye to Oregon
Developers who planned to build the nation’s first mass-scale wave energy project off the Oregon coast have called it quits due to high costs. Oregon Power Technologies’ much anticipated project would have put a flotilla of 100 energy-creating buoys (each the size of a bus) in the waves off the coast of Reedsport. Oregon regulators disclosed that the company relinquished its preliminary permit to the federal government last week.

The project achieved national media attention when it first planned its launch in October 2012, though it unfortunately had issues with the first buoy, and the project remained in a holding pattern ever since. Reports indicate that the area zoned in Reedsport to allow OPT wave and wind energy development just last year will now carry on as a conservation area. In the end, the technical and operational challenges of the project just became too great to sustain. And that’s a shame.

State Expands Underwater Homeowners Deal
Attention, underwater homeowners: Oregon has your back! The state is expanding the Rebuilding America Home Ownership Assistance pilot program to help homeowners in refinancing their high-interest loans. This will benefit folks who owe more than their home’s value, a painfully common problem, and who can’t refinance to lower the monthly mortgage payment. For more information on this program, visit www.homeownerhelp.org.

State to Fed, Save Our Sage Grouse
Good news, sage grouse fans: Governor John Kitzhaber is looking out for your feathered friends. Kitzhaber announced he plans to sign a bill the legislature passed that reportedly aims to help conserve sage grouse populations in Oregon. This leaves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a 2015 deadline to add the sage grouse to its endangered species list, if they so choose.

New Agency Could Save Billions?
The state could soon grab a new agency and possibly save $2.8 billion on its pension fund, if House Bill 4144 introduced by bill treasurer Ted Wheeler gets passed this week by the House and Senate. The bill, which is on its twelth set of amendments, still has a chance to make it, after Wheeler worked with the Ways and Means Capital Construction Subcommittee last week to find amendments both the treasure and legislature could agree on.

The bill would birth the Oregon Investment Department, which would take away the treasurer’s investment ability from under its umbrella. Wheeler would serve as vice-chairman, though the department would have its own budget and executive director. The budget has proven to be the sticking point thus far. The state currently has issues with fund management, but reportedly by working in-house with a department like this it could save billions for Oregon in the next two decades.

Cover Oregon Gets Fed Audit
The oft-criticized healthcare exchange Cover Oregon once again finds itself in the negative limelight. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will look into how Cover Oregon went about spending the reported $308 million in federal grants to build itself up, including what was used for a website that still doesn’t work properly and may not by the Monday, March 31 open enrollment deadline.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle are hoping that some of the money spent on this failure can be recouped in favor of a federal website. Time will tell.

Tribes and Irrigators Settle Water Beef
Last week the Klamath Tribes, irrigators, ranchers, and the state announced they’ve reached a comprehensive water agreement to get legislation moving forward which will help alleviate water disputes in the Klamath Basin. It took more than eight months for these groups to develop an agreement that balances the needs of the upper basin stakeholders and cut off years of disagreements over water allocations.

Now that the agreement has been released, Klamath tribe members and community irrigators will have a 30-day window to review the document. The upper basin agreement contains three major components: a water program, a riparian restoration program, and an economic development program for Klamath tribes. If stakeholders agree to the settlement, comprehensive legislation could be headed to Congress this year.

Oregon Stations Not So Much
Another Oregon-based TV station has been sold to an outside company. Last week, Eugene’s KEZI station, which had sister companies in Klamath Falls and Medford, was purchased by a Georgia partnership, Heartland Media LLC MSouth Equity Partners.

That leaves our fair state with one station (KLSR, Fox affiliate) to call its own. And it can barely do that, being owned by California Oregon Broadcasting, Inc.

by Patrick Fancher

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